The Uncensored Search Uprising Of 2010

I've got a movie scene in my head. It's not from an actual movie; it's a dreamscape compilation of every movie you've ever seen where a submissive population suddenly decides it's "not gonna take it anymore." The scene starts with one student or soldier or citizen standing up, despite the teacher or general or dictator yelling at him to sit down: "I'm warning you, Private Jones!" Another ordinary member of the community rises -- "Private Smith, you sit down right now!" -- then another, and then they all begin to rise in a rush, while the guy in charge yells ever louder, apoplectic and turning purple. Cue stirring violin music.

Yesterday, Private Jones stood up, in the form of Google redirecting searches from mainland China to an uncensored site in Hong Kong. The search giant had been told to stay seated; just 11 days ago, Li Yizhong, China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology, warned, "If you insist on taking this action that violates Chinese laws, I repeat: You are unfriendly and irresponsible, and you yourself will have to bear the consequences."



But in the movie, another ordinary citizen has to rise. Otherwise the first one just stands there looking like a fool, accepting flowers as condolences for having stuck his head out where it's sure to be chopped off.

The key to quelling an uprising like that is, in fact, to chop off the head as quickly as possible. The Los Angeles Times reports that even though mainland Chinese users can at least see results for the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown and the Dalai Lama, they can't actually click through to any of them.

Google is under additional pressure from the folks who pay the bills in China: namely, the advertisers who have already paid to appear in front of mainland Chinese users. The New York Times reports that "Chinese firms selling advertising space on Google's search pages have... [warned] they will demand compensation if it shuts its Chinese portal."

And, of course, the rest of the community has been given the hard word that they'd better not stand up -- or else. As the New York Times notes, the same day Li complained about Google being unfriendly, "the Chinese government information authorities warned some of Google's biggest Web partners that they should prepare backup plans in case Google ceases censoring the results of searches on its local Chinese-language search engine."

Surely it would be easier for Private Jones to just sit down. But that would be an eminently unsatisfying movie ending. Let's envision the other one, the one we all secretly or not-so-secretly hunger for: -- China's most popular web portal -- has the chance to stand up and leave the Google search box smack in the middle of its home page. can also rise, allowing people to continue to search Mountain View's uncensored results. Blacks can go to school with whites, the Berlin Wall can fall and we can pass a healthcare reform bill. The violin music can swell and those of us who cry at that sort of thing can get out our tissues.

It's possible. All the necessary conditions are in place. All that remains is for those in a position to stand to do so.

Keep standing, Private Jones. Stand up, Private Smith and Private Jackson and Private Wilson. Together, you are an unstoppable force.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

9 comments about "The Uncensored Search Uprising Of 2010".
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  1. Gary Klein from GKlein&associates, March 23, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.

    Wonderful piece, Kaila. I hope we don't find ourselves at some point in the future turning to ourselves and saying something to the effect of, "well you know, those things only happen in movies". Here's to the strong of heart and conviction!!

  2. Jon Mensing from Search Marketing Solutions, March 23, 2010 at 10:57 a.m.

    Great post! The Chinese government will either be forced to loosen their iron grip in response or face the prospect of losing all control.

    That's only if another stands up alongside Private Jones as you stated, however.

    I was with you all the way until the "health reform" part...

  3. Michael Keranen from American Honda, March 23, 2010 at 11:21 a.m.

    Good thoughts. I hope it happens. However, all your examples happened in a Democracy, where the voice of the people is appreciated. That will be quite a challenge in a totalitarian environment, where the voice of the people is overshadowed by central authority. It will take alot more than a few private Jones' to stand up.

  4. Christine Randle from DPR Group, March 23, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.

    I applaud Google for its stand against censorship--they should have done this a long time ago.

  5. Susan Mercer from Mercer Enterprises, March 23, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.

    Great metaphors, but you ruin it at the ending. That you could put our anti-healthcare bill of brute government force taking away freedoms in the same league with such glorious up-from-the-people groundswell achievements as the fall of the iron curtain and abolishing segregation is very, very sad.

  6. David Howard from self, March 23, 2010 at 1:40 p.m.

    You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant.

    The problem with this "uprising," however, is that Google has more to lose than the Chinese government.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 23, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.

    Kaila, everything you said is true.

  8. Mark Simmons from marCis interactive, March 23, 2010 at 4:22 p.m.

    Though I also applaud Google's efforts in the fight against censorship, it places them in a very precarious situation. China is still an emerging market in terms of the growth potential Google can tap into. Taking this stance may serve its purpose in the short term, but to a very possible extent, this jeopardizes the long term prospects in this economically rich country. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government reacts. I don't see this ending well...

  9. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, March 24, 2010 at 4:43 a.m.

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for your kind comments. I agree that the battle they're facing is an uphill one and that the odds are long. My only hope is that we never stop doing the right thing because we stand a better chance with the wrong one!

    All the best,

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